Mind over matter
Alexander Kennedy talks to Sally Osborn about her exhibition and discovers that ideas are more important to the her than the materials of her craft
It seems that low-impact art can sometimes hit the hardest. Minimalist canvases can cause an immediate reaction that seems to contradict the apparently modest intentions of the artist. Often you do not need bold brushstrokes or controversial subject matter to be shocked by a piece of art. The work of Sally Osborn, currently on display at the revamped Glasgow Sculpture Studios, inspires just such an unexpectedly strong reaction.
Alexander Kennedy Tell us about your show at the GSS.
Sally Osborn I’ve been creating new sculptural works in cast wax and recycled timber. I’m also going to be showing work in the gated space adjacent to the gallery, where the work will be viewed from the pavement through the wrought iron gates. My work’s a continuous process of keeping threads of thought open, of attempting to understand knowledge or experience as something physical. You could say it’s an attempt to make something not yet thought about, certainly something not yet thought about in the studio.
AK Some of your work is about the pristine material itself while other works are about how that material can be manipulated, how the material’s potential can be exploited for very specific effects. What do you think links and what distinguishes these approaches?
SO Yes, I am interested in the ‘potential’ of all the materials I use, not necessarily in relation to a particular effect. I’m interested in how these materials have the potential to carry my ideas. For instance, watercolour will not soak into the foil, rather it sits on top; or tissue paper fading and degrading during an exhibition, materials that have the potential to disappear.
AK Both still seem to be very much formalist concerns – the examination of the specific nature of a medium. Do you think of your work in this way?
SO I don’t see my work as ‘formalist’ and would be hesitant to apply a term that implies somehow looking backwards. My work is not about the autonomous object, rather it is a collection of works that are integral to each other, under a collective title. Using materials that intrinsically carry particular histories such as recycled wood and the patina of old paint. It is my response to a specific context, site and the viewer that drives the work.
AK Your work also seems to move quite quickly from representational concerns to pure abstraction, and the materials that you use also seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum – either very soft, floaty tissue paper, or sharp, angular shards of wood. This can create a very unsettling effect, an emotive reaction in the viewer. Is this one of your intentions?
SO Materials are important, but it is the conceptual drive of ideas that determines the work I make. I don’t make distinctions between abstraction or representation, hard or soft materials. What’s most important is my response to each new context and the perception experienced by the viewer.
Sally Osborn, Oh Ha Hmm, Glasgow Sculpture Studios, until Sat 15 Sep.